Published Sep 25, 2018On For My Crimes, Marissa Nadler does a lot with a little. After inching toward rock music on 2016's Strangers, her latest album is a return to the dark, luminous folk that Nadler has cultivated over the last 15 years.
Nadler's work remains definitively understated. The arrangements are austere, normally featuring only fingerpicked guitar and vocals, with cascading string lines flickering in and out from time to time. Even the album's all star cast of backup vocalists, which include Dum Dum Girls' Kristin Kontrol, Sharon Van Etten and Angel Olson, are almost entirely absorbed into the album's ghostly gestalt.
And yet, despite the album's gentle timbre, a sense of restlessness bleeds through. Heartbreak has always been a prominent theme in Nadler's work, but For My Crimes is perhaps her most overt breakup album yet. Nadler's lyrics remain both personal and markedly spartan. In several songs even her ex-lover seems to be startling absent.
Instead, small details (the mileage on an old car's odometer, an ex-lover's old T-shirt) contain multitudes of unsaid emotional potential. On the gorgeous "I Can't Listen to Gene Clark Anymore," Nadler cannot escape her breakup's shadow and is forced to jettison a favourite artist as a result. For My Crimes is full of these deft little reflections that capture not only the initial gut punch of a separation but also the chronic little aches and pains that linger on.
There is, of course, always a risk that music this spare and ephemeral could simply evaporate. "Dream Dream Big in the Sky," with its pat chord structure and surprisingly mundane lyrics, is the album's only true misfire. On the whole, however, For My Crimes is another intricate, emotionally complex folk record. It's what we've come to expect from Nadler after all these years. (Sacred Bones)